We do a fair amount of email marketing on behalf of our clients and so we always have to start with determining our email marketing campaign strategy. From data to the end result, we have to think it through so that we get the best result for each campaign.
Here we’ll look at the anatomy of an email marketing campaign strategy. For the sake of clarity, we’ll assume that this is a solus campaign, like a promotion, and not attached to a bigger piece of ongoing marketing activity or a hefty marketing campaign. That said, these considerations are also worthwhile for bigger marketing campaigns as well.
Start with your data: clean and segment
Having an unruly, unkempt database is not a good place to start, so dive in and start tidying it up. With a little bit of segmentation and a little tweak to the copy, you can improve the results of the campaign. Some simple ways you might want to consider segmenting your data, if you can, are:
- Prospects and customers: acknowledge who they are in the opening lines of the email copy, especially for customers, your most valued contacts.
- Industry of the company/individual: this allows you to make the copy specific and little more relevant.
- Their role: directors will probably respond a lot better to email copy that focuses on their issues as compared to a mid-manager. Think about who your offer applies to and if it appeals to all, then consider if you need to change your copy to make it more relevant to different groups of people. For example, we work with a company that sells contact centre technology and their database consists of directors, c-suite and managers. If the product they resell is currently on offer, then we’d adapt the copy for those various roles. Whilst the offer maybe the same, how you sell it to the different audiences will be different.
- ‘Cold’ and ‘warm’ data: This is particularly true for leads, suspects and prospects. A prospect may be classified as ‘warm’, but a contact that you’ve not spoken to yet and is on a data list you bought is ‘cold’. Again, this will allow you to tailor the content slightly so it’s more pertinent. For example, you might introduce yourself or your company differently, and you might pitch the promotion in a slightly different way.
More importantly, with a simple segmentation like the ones outlined above, you’re able to monitor performance of those segments. Typically, personalisation and relevance will increase your result, so it’s worth doing.
Each segment will behave a like a separate list, so you can compare the results against each other. It’ll give you much better insight into your campaign and deliver a better performance.
Define benchmarks and objectives
This may seem obvious, but what results are you actually expecting? Do you know how similar campaigns have performed before? Putting your finger in the air and coming up with anticipated results is pretty tough, but it’s good to set objectives – you’ll be able to monitor expectations and report more effectively.
Industry open rates for IT are typically the lowest of all. According to Smart Insights the average IT open rates were 17.48% in 2013, with click through rates at 2.98%.
Now, these are average across SMB and it doesn’t give any indication of whether they were cold, warm, well segmented, promotional, regular marketing comms or newsletters – so take the figures with a pinch of salt. With warm data, I’d expect higher results, with cold data I’d expect lower results. But you should be able to do better than the average stats above!
Some other considerations to think about are whether you’ve used the data recently. If you haven’t, expect a high hard bounce rate (email addresses that don’t exist any more) – up to 35%, so this could scupper your stats.
Also, think about what the email campaign is for – if it’s a quick purchase promotion where you will get conversions fast, then the response maybe better. But how will you set key performance indicators if your campaign conversion isn’t instant?
Process: what happens if or when…
Part of a good email marketing campaign strategy is about planning for those what ifs. These can be anything from what if it doesn’t work? to what happens when we get high hard bounces?.
Planning now so that you can manage these elements effectively makes for an organised and well executed campaign.
Some of the ‘what if’s’ you might want to consider are:
- What if they don’t open the email: resend 1 day later
- What if there are hard bounces: sync these to the CRM or make sure you extract these from your email client and upload to the CRM to keep things tidy
- What if there are lots of unsubscribes: mark them in the CRM and don’t email them again. Anything over 1% unsubscribe rate and you’ve got a problem (usually old or dirty data)
- What if the open rate is really poor: test the subject line to a limited sample and then roll it out to everyone
- What if the click through rate is poor: send the message again but presented or written in a different way
Just thinking some of these things through will help you be ready when you send the campaign, but also plan in advance to maximise the opportunity. Talk to us if you’d like to work this through with your email campaigns.
Get the message right (and test it)
Craft your copy carefully. It’s important as it can be make or break for an email. And if you’re segmenting, then make sure you tailor the message for the segment.
If you’re unsure, think about testing the message. If you have the volume in the segment, consider a simple A/B split test to determine what works best. Usually with B2B email campaigns, you won’t have the volume to consider this unless you’re heavily investing in bought data. For the best response though, it’s worth considering.
If you do, create a messaging matrix, so you know exactly who is getting which message and how it performed for each segment. You’ll then be able to monitor the response of different segments and the different messages too.
For a killer email marketing campaign strategy, you have seven words. These sit in the subject line and are the seven most important words in the campaign. They stand out and drive your open rate. Don’t overlook them. If you’re going to test anything, test these.
Some quick thoughts on maximising subject lines:
- Start with a verb and write in the active voice. i.e. Take this sales test now
- Include personalisation, i.e. View these latest email marketing trends, Nicola
- Test the length. Best practice says 7 words, maximum length says 10, but with mobile, you’ve probably only got 3 or 4 words.
- Add humour. i.e. Three contact managers walk into a bar…
- Add shock. i.e. Stop. Why waste your time doing…
- Use lists and numbers i.e. 7 great subject lines to make your email pop
- Ask a question. i.e. When was the last time we talked?
There are hundreds of other things to consider when constructing subject lines, but that’s for another post.
Email format and technology
I can’t stand it when I get emails which are beautifully designed, but I can’t see the images. It frustrates the life out of me. It isn’t hard to design in HTML while considering images that aren’t displayed in Outlook or other email programmes. It just takes a bit of thought and design consideration.
Another crucial point to consider is responsiveness. Over 38% of emails are read on a mobile phone and that statistic is increasing significantly month-on-month. When you take into consideration tablets as well, that stat rockets to over 50% according to Litmus. Therefore you have to ensure that your emails are design to render effectively on all devices which makes design and testing fun (note the sarcasm).
There are plenty of free or very low cost responsive templates, just make sure that you test them thoroughly.
What’s your follow-up going to be?
This kind of goes with the points on process above, but once your campaign has left the building and the results are coming in, what’s your next step?
Think through the campaign in its entirety, including where you send those that click. The campaign collateral supporting the email (or vice versa) is essential for your conversion rates, whether you want them to buy, enquire, download, sign-up or subscribe. And if you’re directing them to call or contact, make sure the telesales team is prepped, knows the campaign inside out and they’re ready to go (include them in the seed list, so they know it’s gone and have the message content at hand).
And what if they don’t behave in the way you want? Definitely monitor interactions and create follow-up campaigns to maximise the opportunity. The following are a must:
- Resend to those that didn’t open and consider a different time of day
- Follow-up to those that opened, but didn’t click. Can you ‘up’ the offer or present it in a different way?
- Follow-up to those that opened, clicked but didn’t convert. Again, can you present the campaign in a different way so that it’s more appropriate, relevant and gets the desired response?
A good email marketing campaign strategy is an end-to-end process, and quite complex. For a good strategy, it’s not a one hit wonder, it takes thought, planning, process, good follow-up and most of all good data.
What else are you doing to make your email marketing campaigns deliver the results you want?